Mckenna Rogers and Zach Gors, seniors at Dakota Wesleyan University, have been named this year’s Ms. Wesleyan and Scotchman. The university made a remote announcement online on Friday, April 24, revealing the winners.
The tradition of selecting a Ms. Wesleyan began in 1929. It honors a senior woman who best represents the spirit of Wesleyan and the ideal of “sacrifice or service.” The Scotchman tradition honors a senior man who represents the same high ideals. The title was chosen from the first line of the school song, “The Scotchman.” Today’s Ms. Wesleyan and Scotchman represent academic achievement, extracurricular involvement and community service.
Scotchman and Ms. Wesleyan are the highest honors given to an outstanding senior man or woman based on scholarship, character and overall contributions to Dakota Wesleyan University. This year the university chose the 91st Ms. Wesleyan and 82nd Scotchman.
Rogers, a native of Saint Michael, Minn., is a digital media and design major with concentrations in graphic and web design. Rogers is also minoring in math and business. She excels in the classroom, having made the university’s Dean’s List seven consecutive semesters. Rogers is a member of the DWU cross country and track teams and was elected captain by her teammates and coaches. She serves as a student ambassador and conducts campus tours for prospective students. She is a member of Student Ministry Council, where she serves as chairperson for the share team and handles the group’s marketing and promotion. She also serves on Student Senate and is a member of the business club. Rogers has accepted a job with Innovative Systems in Mitchell upon graduation.
“The very first time I met Mckenna, I knew she was going to be the epitome of a DWU student,” said Vice President of Admissions and Marketing, Fredel Thomas. “She’s hard-working, compassionate, and a natural leader. These qualities have shown brightly throughout her time here at DWU. Her positive attitude, creativity and goal-oriented drive can be seen on the track and cross country team, through her work in student ministry, her studies, her work as an ambassador and in the office of admissions.”
“My whole experience at Dakota Wesleyan has been about forming a bond and support system with the campus and Mitchell community as a whole,” said Rogers. “Having the opportunity to connect with people from every facet of the campus community, from peers to donors and board members to faculty and staff, has opened so many doors for me. It has helped me feel confident in my ability to apply and grow my strengths in the classroom, church and society.”
Gors, of Tea, S.D., is an elementary education major. He is currently in his final semester of the program and student teaches at Parkston Elementary School. Gors has embraced the challenge of transitioning to remote learning and will take his experiences with him as he begins a job as a fourth-grade teacher at Tea Area Legacy Elementary school beginning in the fall of 2020. Gors is a member of the DWU football team and provided veteran leadership during his senior season. Gors is actively involved on campus, serving as a student ambassador, resident assistant and a community tutor for area students. He serves on the executive team for Student Ministry Council, having served as both secretary and student body president. Gors also serves as vice president of Phi Kappa Phi honor society. He is a member of the lead team for Fusion United Methodist Church on the DWU campus. As part of the Elisha Project, started by the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church, Gors has been serving as an Elisha intern for the Dakotas Conference and Student Ministry Council, under the direction of Campus Pastor, Eric Van Meter, for the 2019-2020 academic year. Gors remains an active volunteer in the community and surrounding areas as well, assisting with several youth camps, the Big Brother Big Sister program in Mitchell and lending his time to several university and community events.
“Zach is DWU’s version of Captain America—strong, honest, and unwilling to accept less than the best he or his teams can offer. He is an athlete, a leader, a caring friend, a mentor, a good student, a faithful disciple and a creative designer in visual arts. In short, Zach embodies everything we hope our students will be,” said Van Meter.
“My experiences at Dakota Wesleyan have provided the avenues and valuable connections to establish personal relationships,” said Gors. “Faculty and staff have encouraged and ignited the gifts, passions, and callings within me, that I wasn’t even able to see in myself. The sacrifices coaches, professors, and teammates have made for my success means more than words could share.”
Other candidates for Ms. Wesleyan included:
Kynedi Cheeseman, Alexandria;
Cheeseman is an elementary education major and currently student teaches at L.B. Williams Elementary School in Mitchell. Cheeseman was a force to be reckoned with as a member of the DWU women’s basketball team, finishing with 2,130 career points – second all-time for DWU women’s basketball. Off the court, Cheeseman is a member of Future Teacher’s Organization and serves as a volunteer for South Dakota Special Olympics and Girls on the Run. She has also shared her basketball talents with players of all ages by volunteering for several area clinics and camps.
“DWU gave me the opportunity to meet and build relationships with people that I would never have imagined myself interacting with before coming to this university,” said Cheeseman. “My friends and I already have plans for annual trips and get-togethers after graduation. No matter where our lives take us beyond graduation, I believe we will always carry that same bond we had during our college years. I am looking forward to looking back and reminiscing on all the memories that we made together at Dakota Wesleyan University.”
Courtney Mascarenas, Pueblo, Colo.;
Mascarenas is double majoring in criminal justice and English and plans to go to law school after graduation. She is a member of the DWU women’s soccer team. Her volunteer efforts are abundant and have included organizations such as the Abbott House, South Dakota Special Olympics and Mitchell Area Safehouse. She also serves as a volunteer futsal (soccer) referee and has been assisting nurses back in her home state of Colorado during the COVID-19 pandemic. She currently serves as a Youth Development Specialist at Aurora Plains Academy in Plankinton where she manages and conducts psych-educational groups with residents. She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi and Sigma Tau Delta honor societies and serves as a peer tutor for local area students.
“Between all my memories of soccer, meeting new people, and all the events on campus, Dakota Wesleyan has a place in my heart,” said Mascarenas.
Jill Ricke, Sioux Falls;
Ricke is majoring in elementary education and serves as a student teacher at Madison Elementary School. She is a member of Future Teachers Organization and Student Ministry Council. Ricke serves as manager and student coach for the DWU women’s basketball team. She operated the clock, collected stats, filmed games and practices, and assisted coaches with miscellaneous tasks. She’s served as a camp counselor and volunteer for local area youth groups. Ricke also served a mentor for Big Friend Little Friend in Mitchell.
When asked about her favorite memory during her time at DWU, she referred to the women’s basketball team’s national championship victory in 2018.
“I felt my time at DWU came together in one night. The women’s basketball team was the first group to welcome me to DWU and brought me to some of my best friends who I got to stand next to as we were crowned national champions together. DWU has stellar athletics, a constant fan support, and some absolutely amazing people and the national championship brought it all together in one night,” said Ricke.
Claire Stoller, Madison;
Stoller is majoring in elementary education and has student taught at both L.B. Williams and Longfellow Elementary School in Mitchell. Stoller is an exceptional student, having been named to the Dean’s List five consecutive semesters and serving as a member of Phi Kappa Phi honor society. Stoller is a member of the DWU track and field team. She currently serves as both a leadership in action coordinator for Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership (HOBY) and mentor for Big Friend Little Friend in Mitchell. She is a resident assistant and student ambassador on campus and serves as president of Future Teachers Organization and a share team member for Student Ministry Council. She’s a member of Student Senate and serves as a new student orientation group leader. Stoller also leads a small group for her church in Madison.
“When I first visited Dakota Wesleyan University and was told I would have a second family here, I did not realize how true this would become. Over the last three years, I have come to realize this place is much more than a school, but a home with people that truly care about me,” said Stoller.
Mikayla Street, Revillo;
Street is majoring in biochemistry at DWU. She currently serves as an Emergency Medical Technician for the Wagner Lake Andes Ambulance District. Her involvement extends to groups such as Student Ministry Council, CHAOS (university’s science club), where she serves as vice president, and Student Senate. She serves as a student ambassador and served as a teaching assistant in the chemistry department. Street also serves as a new student orientation leader. She is a member of Sigma Zeta honor society and was the 2018-2019 recipient of the Homer Carhart Prizes in Science award.
“My memories of Dakota Wesleyan serve more than just a great story to share with my family, friends, and future connections - they are a precious gift, full of experiences that I will cherish for a lifetime. I’ve formed friendships with students, staff, and faculty that will continue far beyond my time here in Mitchell. These connections and experiences helped me fully discover my passions and the life path that I wanted to pursue,” said Street.
Other candidates for Scotchman included:
Ryan Chase, Huron;
Chase is majoring in history and minoring in political science and communication. His example in the classroom is exemplary, having made the Dean’s List throughout the duration of his college career. He was the 2019 recipient of the Vicki Clarke Memorial Scholarship for his outstanding leadership and service. He has remained an active member of Student Senate and has held roles as athletic-at large representative, secretary, treasurer and president. He currently serves as president of the McGovern Engagement Group and is also a member of Third Freedom and Future Teachers Organization. He serves as an assistant resident director, campus tutor and student coach for the cross country and track and field teams. He currently holds the title of program coordinator for the McGovern Center at DWU and served as an intern for South Dakota Representative, Dusty Johnson in Washington D.C. Chase remains active in his faith and assists with weekly chapel and Fusion services at DWU. He is an active volunteer with both the South Dakota Special Olympics and Mitchell Marathon.
Chase deemed a 2019 mission trip to Uganda as his favorite memory at DWU - one that he will never forget.
“I could go on and on about why this experience was my favorite, but the opportunities I had mainly just demonstrated to me how blessed I am and how the minor issues or struggles I face are nothing compared to what people in third world countries have to fight through every day. The people also inspired me to do my best to live a Christ-centered life and to put the community before myself. As Helen Keller said best, ‘alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much,’” said Chase.
Tyler Larson, Mitchell;
Larson is majoring in biology and minoring in allied health and psychology. He is a member of CHAOS (science club), where he served as an executive team member. Larson is a member of the DWU football team and later served as a student assistant coach. He’s assisted with many faith-based efforts such as Student Ministry Council, weekly chapel services and leading Bible study groups. He’s assisted with service projects ranging from flood relief and disaster clean-up, assisting with youth athletic camps, the Snack Pack program, serving as a homeschool teacher and tutor, and serving as a volunteer referee for South Dakota Special Olympics.
“The memories I have will always remind me why my DWU family will be something I hold dear to my heart,” said Larson.
Luke Merrill, Sioux Falls;
Merrill is majoring in biochemistry. He is a member of Student Senate and CHAOS (science club). He has received several academic awards, including the Jerry M. Trimble Leadership Award in 2019 and the Homer Carhart Prize in Science Award the same year. In 2018, he was nominated by DWU President Amy Novak for a Newman Fellowship. The Newman Fellowship is a program under Campus Compact that “supports and recognizes students for their involvement in their respective communities and are nominated by the university president or chancellor on the basis of their potential for public leadership.” He was awarded the Biochemistry Freshman of the Year award in 2017, and Biochemistry Sophomore of the Year Award by the Department of Chemistry and Physics at DWU in 2018. Also, in 2018, he was a recipient of the Vicki Clarke Memorial Scholarship for leadership and service. He serves as a peer mentor and tutor and remains heavily active in the community serving as a hospice companion, emergency medical technician, and eucharistic minister. He also volunteers with the Mitchell Food Pantry and Mitchell Area Safehouse.
Merrill’s favorite memory dates back to a trip to Chicago during his freshmen year for the Experimental Biology Conference.
“I got to present research at a national science conference and made some great friends in the meantime,” said Merrill.
Rex Schlicht, Woonsocket;
Schlicht is a criminal justice major and minoring in creative writing. He’s been named to the Dean’s List throughout the duration of his college career. He is a member of the DWU track and field team, Student Ministry Council, Tigers Activities Group, McGovern Engagement Group, Third Freedom, campus improvement committee, homecoming planning committee, new student orientation and Student Senate – where he serves as senior class president. He also serves a university tutor and a student ambassador. He volunteers with the Snack Pack Program, Big Friend Little Friend and South Dakota Special Olympics.
“This university has given me so much over the past four years. I cannot even begin to fathom the influence DWU has had on my life, not just during these four years, but essentially, the rest of my life, as well. When I think of my experience at Dakota Wesleyan, I can’t help but think of one word —family,” said Schlicht.
Luke Wodahl, Buffalo, Wyo.;
Wodahl is an elementary education major and is currently pursuing his Master of Divinity from Sioux Falls Seminary. Wodahl is a member of the DWU baseball team and was appointed to the baseball leadership council by his peers and coaching staff. He is an active member of Student Ministry Council and serves as chairperson for the care team. He is also a member of Future Teachers Organization. He has volunteered at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, at DWU sporting events and with the South Dakota Special Olympics.
Wodahl says his favorite memory while at DWU is simple, yet meaningful.
“If I had to pick one favorite memory it would be walking across campus. This might seem simple, but it seemed like every time I would walk across campus, I would run into at least 15 people I would call my good friends. I remember countless times smiling and waving, yelling and joking around, with nearly everyone when I was on my way to class, practice, or student ministry. That is the memory I cherish the most, and I think it truly shows the kind of community that Dakota Wesleyan is,” said Wodahl.